La Matadora: The Process

Solo Debut: August 2011, Red Hots Burlesque
I’ll be performing this number (and one other) Friday, June 7, 2013 at Red Hots Burlesque. Details here! (Why am I blogging about my process? Read my post here for an explanation.)
This was my very first burlesque solo! I had done group numbers with Hot Pink Feathers since December 2010, but it took me several months to get up the nerve to actually decide to do a solo. (I mean seriously, could I be up there alone? Could I really display all my physical imperfections and still be alluring?…That last one was a biggie for me, and at times still is.) This number debuted exactly one year after I arrived in California.
My first hand-made $65 costume. My matador pants are old yoga pants!
And the epaulettes are elbow patches with red craft balls glued on. High brow all the way.
My first goal was engaging music. After coming upon the Gipsy Kings’ “Bamboleo,” I knew I’d found my song. It had lots of stops where I envisioned brilliantly pulling off glittering clothing. This is how the choreography got started – kind of in the same way that I write stories – I saw things happening in my head and tried to translate it to the real thing.
I wanted to combine bullfighter elements with flamenco, and spent lots of time watching female matadors. (Actually, it gave me a disdain for bullfighting as a “sport,” but from a movement perspective, Maripaz Vega is my favorite.) I also took a flamenco class or two at ODC to get the basics. The finished number is a matador-flamenco hybrid where (hold on to your hats, this is gonna be cheesy) the audience is my bull. Also, I knew I wanted some “feats of strength” in the number. I’ve practiced capoeira on and off since 2005, and knew a headstand would be easy, but would look relatively dazzling (assuming the audience was not full of capoeiristas and acrobats).

Kick-ass photo for Red Hots Burlesque taken by Amber Gregory Photography.
Find more of her work at
The other element to this number is that it is 100% choreographed (as opposed to what I’ve realized is a little more traditional in burlesque: freer in terms of movement). While choreography understandably makes some people nervous (what if I forget?!), it made me more comfortable. The steps were something tangible I could hold on to, or perhaps occupy myself with. Because if I was occupied with dance steps, perhaps I’d forget that I’m stripping for strangers…or worse yet, people who actually know me. (The horror!)
After debuting my first solo ever, I met a 50-something couple from Iowa who had just seen the show (their first burlesque show). The woman, a gorgeous blond, said something I’ll never forget: “You know, none of us have perfect bodies…you give us normal girls hope. I mean, you really worked that ass.” That, I think, is the power of burlesque. Because we are the normal girls on stage. (“Normal” as in various body types…but you got that.) Burlesque gives power to the female form, in all its forms, (and with boylesque, the male form too!). The gift of burlesque is that you don’t need to have flat abs, huge perky breasts and no cellulite to make people cheer for you…or to cheer for yourself. But I digress.
Ok, I know this was supposed to be only about process, and I’ve gotten a bit off track, but thems the breaks. So hey, other artists: Have a comment about your own process (or thoughts about anything here)? Leave it below or you can email me at if you’d rather not post publicly. I’d love to hear about the creative process of others.

Published by adalavender

Burlesque dancer. Showgirl. Poet. Both lover and fighter.

4 thoughts on “La Matadora: The Process

  1. I come up with acts in much the same way that I wrote papers in college: OUTLINES. I come up with my idea/concept and find my music. Then I sit down with the song and listen to it 5 million times with notebook and pen. I wait for my brain to start dancing and I come up with a "map" for the routine. What happens when and where and the order that these things should happen. Sometimes my routines are fully choreographed, for example when I tap dance BQ.. no other way, but a lot of the time I leave room for improv in my outlines.

  2. Thank you for posting this! As a photographer of burlesque performers, I really don't focus on the bodies of the performers in terms of "are these perky breasts?" or "Is that a firm ass?" or anything like that. I'm looking for story and composition within the image. Some of my favorite pictures show dancers telling remarkable stories through their supposed "flaws."I look forward to seeing more of your posts!

  3. As an English teacher in "real" life, I *love* this Suzil! Sometimes I feel like my burlesque life & writer life are miles away from each other…but clearly, from your comment, they don't need to be! Thanks for the comment!

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